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How Will Patients Choose Healthcare?

Posted on May 19, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In a recent conversation with Medhost CEO, Bill Anderson, he asked the question that’s the title of this blog post: “How Will Patients Choose Healthcare?” He then proceeded to answer his question by saying, “Healthcare will buy on brand like they do in their other purchasing decisions.” It’s worth adding that Bill and Medhost are working to build their YourCare Everywhere brand in healthcare. You can decide if their business efforts are skewing his perspective or not.

For me, I find the question absolutely fascinating and an extremely important question for healthcare organizations. This question is becoming more and more important since the shift to high deductible plans is forcing patients to be more selective in how they choose their healthcare provider. Will brand be the way that people choose healthcare?

One challenge I have with this idea is that healthcare is a complex decision. I don’t know many people who make impulse healthcare provider decisions. I wonder if there are other complex decisions we could learn from. What is true is that healthcare decisions are often crisis decisions. In a crisis, where do people turn? I think the answer is the brands they know.

As I look at healthcare, which organizations have a true national healthcare brand? The first one that comes to mind is Mayo Clinic. Cleveland Clinic seems to be working down a similar path. Are their others? There are very few national healthcare brands that are trusted.

There are many local healthcare brands. Dignity Health has been pouring money into commercials in Vegas to build their brand. I assure you the commercials are all brand. Intermountain has a brand in Utah and Partners Healthcare has a brand in Boston. We could argue whether they have good or bad brands since they are both so dominant in their region. There are many other examples of local healthcare brands.

On the other side of healthcare brands is the CVS Minute Clinic, Walmart, and all the other retailers trying to make a space for themselves in healthcare. Also competing for brand recognition with a similar direct to consumer, retail healthcare play are the telemedicine providers like MD Live.

Long story short, we’re seeing patients having more power when it comes to selecting their healthcare provider and we see a ton of brand competition. Will a healthcare organization be able to survive without a major investment in their brand? What does this mean for small physician practices?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what’s happening with healthcare brands. Do they matter? In what ways will they matter? What should a healthcare organization be doing to shore up its brand?

HL7 Backs Effort To Boost Patient Data Exchange

Posted on December 8, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Standards group Health Level Seven has kicked off a new project intended to increase the adoption of tech standards designed to improve electronic patient data exchange. The initiative, the Argonaut Project, includes just five EMR vendors and four provider organizations, but it seems to have some interesting and substantial goals.

Participating vendors include Athenahealth, Cerner, Epic, McKesson and MEDITECH, while providers include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Intermoutain  Healthcare, Mayo Clinic and Partners HealthCare. In an interesting twist, the group also includes SMART, Boston Children’s Hospital Informatics Program’s federally-funded mobile app development project. (How often does mobile get a seat at the table when interoperability is being discussed?) And consulting firm the Advisory Board Company is also involved.

Unlike the activity around the much-bruited CommonWell Alliance, which still feels like vaporware to industry watchers like myself, this project seems to have a solid technical footing. On the recommendation of a group of science advisors known as JASON, the group is working at creating a public API to advance EMR interoperability.

The springboard for its efforts is HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources. HL7’s FHir is a RESTful API, an approach which, the standards group notes, makes it easier to share data not only across traditional networks and EMR-sharing modular components, but also to mobile devices, web-based applications and cloud communications.

According to JASON’s David McCallie, Cerner’s president of medical informatics, the group has an intriguing goal. Members’ intent is to develop a health IT operating system such as those used by Apple and Android mobile devices. Once that was created, providers could then use both built-in apps resident in the OS and others created by independent developers. While the devices a “health IT OS” would have to embrace would be far more diverse than those run by Android or iOS, the concept is still a fascinating one.

It’s also neat to hear that the collective has committed itself to a fairly aggressive timeline, promising to accelerate current FHIT development to provide hands-on FHIR profiles and implementation guides to the healthcare world by spring of next year.

Lest I seem too critical of CommonWell, which has been soldiering along for quite some time now, it’s onlyt fair to note that its goals are, if anything, even more ambitious than the Argonauts’. CommonWell hopes to accomplish nothing less than managing a single identity for every person/patient, locating the person’s records in the network and managing consent. And CommonWell member Cerner recently announced that it would provide CommonWell services to its clients for free until Jan. 1, 2018.

But as things stand, I’d wager that the Argonauts (I love that name!) will get more done, more quickly. I’m truly eager to see what emerges from their efforts.

Understanding Apple Health

Posted on June 17, 2014 I Written By

Kyle is CoFounder and CEO of Pristine, a VC backed company based in Austin, TX that builds software for Google Glass for healthcare, life sciences, and industrial environments. Pristine has over 30 healthcare customers. Kyle blogs regularly about business, entrepreneurship, technology, and healthcare at kylesamani.com.

Apple recently announced Health and Healthkit as part of iOS 8, and initial responses have been mixed.

At one extreme, the (highly biased) CEO of Mayo Clinic called Apple Health “revolutionary.” At the other, cynical health IT pundits claim that Apple Health is a consumer novelty and won’t crack the enigmatic healthcare system. As a cynical health IT pundit myself, I’m more inclined towards the latter, but have some optimism about Apple’s first steps into healthcare.

For the uninitiated, Apple Health is a central dashboard for health related information, packaged for consumers as an iOS app. Consumers open the app and see a broad array of clinical indicators (e.g. as physical activity, blood pressure, blood glucose, sleep data). You can learn more about Health and Healthkit from Apple.

The rest of this post assumes significant understanding of modern health IT challenges such as data silos, EMPIs, HIEs, and an understanding of what Health and Healthkit can and can’t do. I’ll address what Apple Health does well, ask some questions, and then provide some commentary.

Apple Health does a few things well:

1) Apple Health acts as a central dashboard for consumers. Rather than switching between five different apps, Health provides a central view of all clinical indicators. In time, Health could help patients understand the nuances of their own data. By removing friction to seeing a variety of indicators in a single view, patients may discover correlations that they wouldn’t have observed before. With that information, consumers should be able to adjust behaviors to lead healthier lifestyles.

2) Apple Health provides a robust mechanism for health apps to share data with one another. Until now, health app developers needed to form partnerships with one another and develop custom code to share information; now they can do this in a standardized way with minimal technical or administrative overhead. This reduces app lock-in by enabling data liquidity, empowering consumers to switch to the best health app or device and carry data between apps. This is a big win for consumers.

Unanswered questions:

1) How does Apple Health actually work? Apple provided virtually no details. Does the patient need the Epic MyChart app on their phone? Is there custom code integrating iOS to Epic MyChart? Is there a Mayo Clinic app that is separate from Epic MyChart? If not, how does Apple Health know that the consumer is a Mayo patient? Or a Kaiser Permanente patient? Or a Sutter Health patient?

2) Does the patient give consent per data value, or is it all or nothing? How long does consent last? Must consent be taken at the hospital, or can the patient opt in or out any time on their phone? Who within the health system can access the consented data?

3) Given that there are hundreds of EpicCare silos and dozens of CareEverywhere silos, how does Apple Health decide which silo(s) to interface with? Does data go to an HIE or to an EMR? If to an HIE, can all eligible connected providers access the data with consent? If a patient has records in multiple HIEs and EMRs (which they likely do), how does Apple Health determine which HIE(s) to push and pull data from?

4) Does Apple Health support non-numerical data such as CCDAs? What about unstandardized data? For example, PatientIO allows providers to develop customized care plans for patients that can include almost any behavioral prescription. Examples include water intake, exercising at a certain time of the day, taper schedules, etc.

5) Can providers write back to a patient’s Health profile? Given that open.epic doesn’t allow Epic to send data out, how could Apple Health receive data from Epic?

7) How will Apple handle competing health apps installed on the same consumer’s phone? For example, if I tap “more diabetes info” in Apple Health, will it open Mayo Clinic’s app (and if so, to the right place in the Mayo Clinic app?) or the blood glucose tracking app that came with with my blood glucose meter? Or my iTriage or WebMD app?

8) Is Apple Health intended to function as a patient-centric HIE? If so, what standards does it support? CCDA? FHIR? Direct?

Comments:

1) The Apple-Epic partnership is obviously built on open.epic, which Epic announced in September of 2013. It’s likely that Apple and Epic reached an agreement around that time, and asked the public for ideas on how to shape the program to get a sense of what developers wanted.

2) The only way to succeed in health IT is to force the industry to conform to one’s standards, or to support a hybrid of hybrids approach. Early indicators show Apple (predictably) trending toward the former. Unfortunately, Apple’s perennially Apple-centric approach inhibits supporting the level of interoperability necessary to power an effective consumer health strategy. Although Apple provides a great foundation for some basic functions, the long term potential based on the current offering is limited. What Apple has produced to date provides for sexy screenshots, but appears to fall short of addressing the core interoperability and connectivity issues that plague chronic disease management and coordination of care.

3) In a hypothetical world at some indeterminate point in the future, there would be a patient-facing, DNS-like lookup system for provider organizations (Direct eventually?). Patients should be able to lookup provider organizations and share their data with providers selectively. Apple Health provides a great first step towards that dream world by empowering patients to see and, to some extent, control their own data.

How Much of Healthcare Business is Healthcare?

Posted on January 27, 2014 I Written By

Kyle is CoFounder and CEO of Pristine, a VC backed company based in Austin, TX that builds software for Google Glass for healthcare, life sciences, and industrial environments. Pristine has over 30 healthcare customers. Kyle blogs regularly about business, entrepreneurship, technology, and healthcare at kylesamani.com.

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to welcome Kyle Samani, Founder of Pristine, as a regular blogger here on EMR and HIPAA. I first met Kyle when he was a high school student working at his father’s EHR company. It’s amazing how far we’ve both come since then. You can find all of Kyle’s EMR and HIPAA posts here.

In The Great Re-Bundling of Healthcare, I argued that healthcare will be rebundled along new dimensions because technology will break assumptions that predicated bundling in the analog era of healthcare delivery.

In that post, I noted that a few industries have been completely dismantled and rebundled by technology:

The print publishing industry – newspaper and magazines – thought that their unique value was in their core product – news, editorials, and classifieds. But the unique value they delivered was in printing and distribution. When the Internet reduced the cost of printing and distribution to effectively $0 and free news became the standard, their businesses collapsed. Print publishers are left servicing the paper news market, which is a fraction the size of the overall digital news market.

Taxi companies thought that their local, retail, administrative, and regulatory overhead was necessary to solve the get-from-point-a-to-point-b problem. Using the Internet, Uber, Lyft, and SideCar proved that none of those overhead functions matter, enabling a new era of get-from-point-a-to-point-b solutions. Taxi companies are left servicing the I-haven’t-heard-of-Uber and there-aren’t-enough-Uber-drivers markets, both of which are rapidly shrinking.

Hotels thought constructing buildings and staffing employees was the only way to solve the get-a-place-to-stay-for-the-night problem. Using the Internet, AirBnB proved that anyone can solve the get-a-place-to-sleep-for-the-night problem for anyone else. Hotels are left servicing the high-end, premium service market in the get-a-place-to-stay-for-the-night business.

These examples beg the question: when healthcare is completely rebundled around digital delivery, what businesses will healthcare providers really be in?

In the examples above, the Internet empowered laymen to circumvent legacy establishments. Using the Internet, laymen performed the same tasks more affordably than traditional retail businesses.

With Watson-like self-diagnostics; an army of cheap, connected, sensors; and a wealth of freely available information on the web, laymen will increasingly self-diagnose and self-medicate whenever and however possible. This process will start at the low end – the simple stuff such as common colds, simple bumps and bruises – and increasingly move up market.

Over time, tri-corders (such as Scanadu), smartphone EKGs (such as AliveCor), smartphone ultrasounds, CTs, MRIs, and blood tests will empower patients to gather all of the necessary diagnostic information without ever visiting a retail medical facility. Patients will send data to providers electronically and consult with providers via video conference. The web will obviate the need for most retail overhead, capital expenditure, and labor cost associated with most care delivery.

Medicine will be disrupted from the bottom up. Hospitals won’t completely go away, but they will be left servicing the high-end of the market – ICUs, surgery, labor and delivery, and other high-acuity conditions – just as hotels, print publications, and taxis service the most expensive segments of their respective markets. The vast majority of care will be delivered as virtually and cost effectively as possible.

By circumventing retail establishments, medicine will centralize as geography loses relevance. Just as the hotel and taxi industries consolidated around mega-platforms such as Uber and AirBnB, healthcare will consolidate around provider hubs that service enormous populations. The mega healthcare systems will have the tools to centrally manage populations and interact with them contextually. The major health systems of the analog era that were bounded by geography will battle to become national behemoths as geography becomes irrelevant. Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and others are already doing this by establishing virtual clinics across the country.

Why did the publishing industry, taxi industry, hotel industry, and travel agency industries collapse? Why will all of the old practices of medicine collapse? Cost. The most costly aspects of delivering care are labor and retail overhead. As increasingly small, localized, connected computers gather an increasingly large amount of data, computers will help patients self-diagnose and self-medicate without the need for expensive retail or labor overhead. Computers will automate inherently repetitive processes.

So how do I answer the question I posed in the title of this post? I’ll do some high level math. About 15% of the cost of delivering care is associated with billing and administrative overhead. About 40-50% is provider labor. There’s another 5-10% is spent on other miscellaneous expenses. And the remainder of costs are in capital expenditures including retail overhead. I suspect that 50-60% of total healthcare costs could be cut when healthcare is fully digital.

EHR Helps Researchers Find Genetic Connections To Disease

Posted on December 5, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

A group of researchers have completed a study which found new links between patients’ genetic profile and specific diseases by mining EMR data, reports a story in iHealthBeat.

The research, which was conducted by the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics Network, a consortium of medical research institutions including the Mayo Clinic and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, analyzed data from about 13,000 of EMRs.

The participants then grouped about 15,000 billing codes contained in the EMRs into 1,600 disease categories. Next, they looked for links to diseases in EMRs which contained DNA data.

The researchers, whose study was published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, found  63 new genetic links to diseases, ranging from skin cancer to anemia, iHealthBeat said.

The EMR study method, which is known as a phenome-wide association study, is a departure from the 13-year old genome-wide association model, which has been used to search for common mutations in the DNA of patients of people with the same diseases.

Co-author Joshua Denny, a biomedical informatics researcher at Vanderbilt, says that the newer method can help link seemingly unrelated symptoms, detect potentially harmful side effects of a drug, and help find new uses for drugs.

This is just the tip of the iceberg where translation medicine and EMRs are concerned. Using EMRs to conduct genomic research is becoming an increasingly popular exercise, cutting across a wide range of clinical disciplines.

And it’s not just institutional academic research houses getting into the act. For example, this summer a large northern Virginia hospital announced that it had struck a deal with a Massachusetts analytics firm to see if data mined from EMRs can better predict the risk of preterm live birth.

Now, genomics research is not for just any hospital — it’s obviously a major undertaking — but I think it’s likely more hospitals will get into the game. By this time next year I think there will be a crop of interesting new genomics projects mining EMRs. Although, it will be interesting to see how the 23andMe FDA battle impacts this as well.

Great Story About Value of Healthcare Information

Posted on January 6, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently got a message from Jerry Theis of MyCrisisRecords. He sent me a story that I thought was a great way to start off the new year. It talks about the value of health care data interoperability and in this case a device and PHR with a person’s health information. Enjoy the story!

Yesterday, one of my members called me to tell me she was taken to the emergency room suffering combinations of complications caused by a rare condition, Polymorphous along with a flare up of fibromyalgia which caused to her go into cardiac arrest. The ER doctors were able to effectively treat her because she had her digital device which provided them all of her medications, conditions, allergies (she is allergic to latex). Because of this rare condition and her acute distress she was told by the doctors had she not had this device there would have been adverse events, medical errors and it would have been fatal.

The ER doctors read the article I had downloaded in the device about Polymorphous. She, the patient educated the doctors who said they had never treated or seen this rare condition. The ER doctors consulted with Mayo Clinic and an expert on Polymorphous consulted with them and spoke to the patient while reviewing the transmittal of her PHR sent to him. She consented to be injected with a drug that had to be sent from Mayo (2hrs). It relieved her of the severe pain and swelling in her throat.

I share this with you because it meant so much to me to hear her testimonial and how thankful she was and how grateful she said the doctors were about what I created. I am a psychotherapist and she is a patient of mine who has a Bi Polar condition. The doctors said they may have had discarded her presentation because of her psychiatric condition had they not had the complete PHR. Another primary reason why I relentlessly developed this technology, for the special needs populations.